Context Book Report: Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out

12 Sep

Topic and focus of the book:

Though the study in this book was conducted over a decade ago at this point, and the technologies that the children and teens are using have evolved (and, in some cases, disappeared or were replaced), the core message and findings still stand.   Also, you could easily imagine the youth speaking about Facebook instead of Myspace (though there is a Facebook example from the early days of when it was only for college students).  

The study looks at the children and youth they worked with seriously and spoke to them as equals instead of as children in an effort to argue against trivializing children’s media culture.  Instead, they look at it this culture as “a site of child- and youth-driven creativity and social action.” (Ito, et al. 2009).  The study’s hypothesis is “that those immersed in new digital tools and networks are engaged in an unprecedented exploration of languages, games, social interaction, problem-solving, and self-directed activity that leads to diverse forms of learning. ” (Ito, et al. 2009).

How does it relate to libraries, information environments, technology, and focus of our course?

I feel that any librarian looking to work with kids or teens would benefit from reading this book and reviewing the findings of the study.  Not only does it show how the students all used technology in different ways to interact with friends, make social plans, learn, and be creative, but you also see from the student’s points of view how and why they use the technology.  It’s unique in the way that you are pulled to the same level of the particular student they’re talking to, and can kind of understand how their minds work and what it is about the technology they’re using that makes it important. 

One particular sentence in this book jumped out at me and made me immediately think of the article and video this week which spoke about The Mix, where teens designed a room just for them at the main public library in San Francisco: “Like friendship-driven networks, interest-driven networks are also sites of peer-based learning, but they represent a different genre of participation, in which specialized interests are what bring a social group together. ” (Ito, et al. 2009).

The Mix space turned into an interest-driven network made by participation of a group (which probably became a social group) of teens withs specialized interests. The Mix utilizes technology to help bring teens together in a space full of different specialized interests and helps to build different social groups. It also became a site of peer-based learning, as many of the events hosted at The Mix in various libraries are hosted by teens. The Mix Writer’s Club and Book Club both only have teens in the groups, and there are so many different ways that teens can collaborate and work together with making videos, music, dancing, art, sewing, and a number of other things.

While libraries were only mentioned a few times in Hanging Out, the times they were mentioned mostly talked about how the youth wanted to utilize the computers at their school and public libraries but the adults (librarians, teachers, parents) didn’t seem to trust them enough and were always looking over their shoulder to make sure they weren’t doing anything wrong — even though each person’s idea of “wrong” is very different. For most parents, Myspace seemed to be the thing they were worried about.

Image result for don't talk to strangers on internet meme

This made me think of radical trust and how different things are now than they were then in terms of meeting people on the Internet. Parents and adults were (rightfully) concerned about their children talking to people pretending to be other children and being preyed upon. However, completely banning talking to other people online absolutely did not keep kids from talking to other people online, it just made them hide it. Parents and other adults in a kid’s life would do better by teaching them the dangers of meeting people online and show them how to safely do it. Hopefully, the kid will then trust the parent and let them know of any person they’re going to meet or wanting to meet, and let the parent at least go with them for the first meeting. Especially today, where so many people meet new friends and significant others online — and with so many apps that make it even easier to do so — teaching the right type of trust is imperative.



Ito, Mizuko, et al. Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. MIT press, 2009.

Costanza, Kathleen. “In San Francisco, Teens Design a Living Room for High-Tech Learning at the Public Library | YOUmedia Learning Labs Network.” Youmedia.Org, 28 Aug. 2015,

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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Reflections


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